Solar Ultrasound - Bass Note In Music Of The Spheres

Ancient cosmology held that each of the planetary spheres corresponded to a different note in a universal musical scale. The tones emitted by the planets depended on the ratios of their different orbits in the same way that the length of a lyre-string determines its tone. The music of the spheres was contemplated by many respected philosophers, like Pythagoras, Plato, Pliny and Ptolemy. The English hermetic philospher Robert Fludd devised celestial scales that spanned three octaves, linking sub-planetary elemental worlds to angelic choruses beyond the stars.

(Robert Fludd's divine Monochord)

Now, in a letter published on December 10th in Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers report that the Sun's atmosphere is filled with ultrasound-like waves at a frequency of about 100 millihertz - every ten seconds. "At 10-second period, these waves qualify as ultrasound because individual atoms on the Sun experience only a few collisions during the brief passage of each wave, just as with ultrasound here on Earth," says Dr. Craig DeForest, a senior research scientist in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. DeForest found the signature in data collected in January 2003 in the TRACE program.

"These ripples seem to be carrying about 1 kilowatt of power per square meter on the surface of the Sun," says DeForest. "That is similar to the sonic energy you might find coming out of the speakers at a rock concert. Very loud."

Of course, sound cannot travel through the vacuum of interplanetary space. The TRACE spacecraft, in orbit around the Earth, is an ultraviolet telescope trained on the sun. TRACE data shows small fluctuations in the brightness of solar ultraviolet emissions. Solar ultrasound waves are too faint to be seen directly by TRACE. So, DeForest looked for patterns in the background noise of the telescope.

(From Solar Atmosphere)
This combined ultraviolet solar image shows the region of the solar atmosphere that was examined to find the waves. The full-Sun image was produced with the EIT telescope aboard the SOHO spacecraft (image courtesy of the SOHO EIT consortium), and the small inset shows the region that was examined with higher resolution by the TRACE telescope.

TRACE is the Transition Region and Coronal Explorer mission; it has an open data policy. TRACE data is available to anyone on the web. The intent of the program is to explore the magnetic field in the solar atmosphere; TRACE was launched in 1998 and uses a 30 centimeter apterture telescope with a 1024x1024 CCD collecting images over an 8.5 arc minute square field of view.

The waves or "ripples" are most likely created by the sudden collapse of magnetically induced electric currents (magnetic reconnection) or by lower frequency sound waves that crash like ocean waves as they make their way up from the surface of the Sun. Both of the sources are likely candidates for the source of the solar atmosphere's mysterious extra heat, making the new waves a valuable tool for exploring a decades-old mystery. "By examining these waves more closely, we should be able to discern the source of energy release in the solar atmosphere, just like you can tell by listening whether the car is running in a dark garage," says DeForest. "In both cases, something is releasing energy into the environment, and that release has a recognizable sonic signature."

(From Solar Ultrasound)
In this wave diagram, which summarizes nearly 1,000 TRACE images, the waves appear as sloped ridges, showing the presence of sound-like waves in the octave between 50 and 100 mHz. The waves travel about 1,000 times the speed of sound on Earth.

As far as I know, science fiction authors have never used a solar-sized mass as a musical instrument. However, sf is replete with other creative examples of instruments; see Isaac Asimov's visisonor or Jack Vance's stimic. Read more about TRACE, the music of the spheres and solar ultrasound.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/12/2004)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Space Tech ")

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.' - Edmond Hamilton, 1936.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.' - Jack Williamson, 1933.

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...' - James Blish, 1957.

Humanity Star LEO Advertisement?
'Everyone has noticed those enormous advertisements...' Jules Verne, 1889.



Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.






Current News

Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'

TMS Decreases Belief In God, Increases Belief In Immigrants
'... setting up the same currents, the same basic ideas, in them all.'

Loomo Mini Transporter Robot Companion You Ride On
'Slowly the [robot] horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'

Soft Robotics - Now With 3D Printed Sensors!
'A series of chemelectric afferent nerve-analogues, which permitted it to gauge to an ounce the amount of pressure necessary to snap a bone...'

AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom
'The structure,... was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us...'

Espresso Telescope Searches For Exoplanets
'These instruments were the wonderful ones our astronomers had perfected.'

Dune Fans! Metal-Organic Frameworks Make Science Fiction Real
'Dew collectors,' he muttered, enchanted by the simple beauty of such a scheme.

Manned Maneuvering Unit From 1984
'The glittering little rocket bolted to the black iron behind him.'

Astronaut Gets Younger In Space
'So what we're looking for now is not an antibiotic - an anti-life drug - but an anti-agathic, an anti-death drug...'

Blockchain Used To Verify Election Results
'Any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a yes or no.'

IJOP Integrated Joint Operations Platform China's Minority Report?
'All day long the idiots babbled, imprisoned in their special high-backed chairs...'

HushMe Bluetooth Device Reinvents The Hush-A-Phone
'Talking into a hush-a-phone which he had plugged into the telephone jack...'

Ultrathin Brain Needle Developed At MIT
Putting drugs into a selected cubic millimeter within the living brain.

Tesla Semi Truck Now At Work
Why wait? Tesla Semi now hard at work.

Illustris: The Next Generation Of Universe Simulation
'This digital device was ... A machine able literally to contain the Universe Itself...'

Scaly Yet Soft Robotic Snake
Love those robotic sneks.

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise | - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.